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Nature / Police issue orca watching reminder

Orca watchers having a whale of a time in Lerwick in 2016. Photo: John CouttsOrca watchers having a whale of a time in Lerwick in 2016. Photo: John Coutts

THE POLICE have reminded people to watch orcas responsibly – both at sea and on land.

Scottish Natural Heritage’s (SNH) Karen Hall issued a reminder at the weekend following reports of boats closely following orcas near Lerwick on Friday evening.

The police have now followed suit, saying that people using a boat need to be mindful of the code of conduct in relation to marine life observation.

Boats should be at least 100m from marine animals like whales and dolphins.

“If you are not aware of the code then it is advisable that you research it before you venture out to sea,” police constable George Owen said.

“Details can be easily obtained online from various websites, namely the Scottish Natural Heritage site, or you can visit your local SNH office in Lerwick for further information.

“It is imperative that the code of conduct be adhered to at all times to allow the animals to live and roam undisturbed in their own environment.

“Whales, dolphins and porpoises are protected under law from disturbance, whether reckless or deliberate. Anyone found guilty of an offence would be fined up to £5,000.”

The police added that it is “advised that those wishing to view the animals from a vehicle remain aware of other road users and pedestrians at all times”.

“Please remain focussed on the road and avoid coming to a sudden halt,” Owen said. “These lapses in concentration can lead to collisions.

“To those observing the animals on foot from shorelines please be aware of your surroundings especially when near to cliff edges.

“A good encounter with marine life is one that is enjoyable for you and the whales.”